“Hey, Bri,” John called as he entered the flat.
Brian looked up from his book and smiled at his friend. “Hi, John. Wow, take it it’s raining out there?”
John rolled his eyes and shook his hands, water droplets flying everywhere. “Yeah, believe it or not. I’m bloody soaking.”
“You look it. Go get something from my room to change into and chuck your wet things in the bathroom. I'll wash them later, if you'd like.”
As John smiled gratefully and headed towards the rooms at the back of the flat, Brian called out again.
“Better yet, get something from Roger’s room. He seems to have stolen my warmest and biggest clothing.”
“Thanks.” John disappeared quickly and Brian listened to the sounds of the wardrobe opening. “He not around today?”
“Nah, him and Fred went to the studio. You know what those two are like. They wanted to practice a new beat or something; I was half asleep when Rog was talking.”
“I thought I heard the front door this morning, but I couldn’t be bothered to go and check.”
Brian chuckled, shaking his head at the younger man. They’d split into two flats very early on as a band and so far, it seemed to be ideal. Even if Freddie kept a weird schedule and John valued his sleep, they seemed to work perfectly as roommates. Brian turned back to his book before he registered that it had all gone quiet down the hallway.
“John? You find something?”
Brian put down his book and made to stand up when John suddenly reappeared. Any words died in Brian’s throat when he saw what John was holding; namely a velvet skirt and a cheap-looking make-up set. There was a flimsy bra hanging from his finger and a laddered pair of tights over his arm. Brian blinked slowly a few times before his brow furrowed.
“They were in Roger’s room,” John said, quietly, slowly. “Down the side of his bed. I’m so sorry, Brian.”
Brian shook his head. “No,” he said, dimly aware that his voice sounded thick and choked at the same time. “No. They can’t – they’re not… he wouldn’t.”
Roger and him had been dating for an entire year. Roger having women’s clothing in his room meant that…
Brian spent many nights curled up in Roger’s room and those he didn’t were because he had Roger in his own. There was no way that Roger had… Brian couldn’t even think of the word, never mind push it past his lips. Roger wouldn’t do that to him. He wouldn’t bed someone else in the apartment that they shared and then leave the evidence on the floor of his room. There was just no way.
It had taken Brian a long time to believe that Roger really did want to be with him, and that he truthfully loved him, but now he was finally there and nothing was going to take Roger away from him now.
John was still looking at him with a pitying sort of expression and it hurt to look at.
“He wouldn’t,” Brian repeated and John softened.
“I know he wouldn’t.”
That was good to hear, at least. Brian knew what a special friendship Roger and John had and he was glad to see that trust remained at the forefront.
“But I’m holding an armful of women’s clothing standing in a flat owned by two men. Two men that are in a relationship with each other, I might add.”
“There’s got to be a reason. It could be–,” Clare's, Brian was going to say. But Roger’s sister hadn’t been round in weeks and Roger would never keep her underwear anyway. Brian sighed deeply, forlornly. “They’re not Clare’s.”
Echoing the sigh, John shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“Are they clean?”
John lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Can’t smell anything. Nothing obvious on them either, so that's something, I guess. The make-up has definitely been used. There’s a lipstick and some eye stuff, I think. Kind of looks like the stuff Veronica uses.”
“I don’t know,” John said. “I wasn’t exactly looking for anything. The skirt fell out of the wardrobe when I opened the door to get a jumper and then I noticed the make-up on the floor by the bedside table. The bra was under the bed when I bent down to pick up the stuff. I’m sorry, Brian. I mean – it’s, well, you know; it’s…”
Brian was quiet. His head was spinning and he felt like he was being pinned to the sofa by an unseen but totally immovable force. How many times had Brian slept in that bed? How many nights had he fucked Roger to the point of utter bliss in the same sheets that Roger had stripped down some faceless girl?
Did Roger do it the same way? Did he undress his women in the same way that Brian always carefully took off Roger’s clothes, piece by skin-tight piece. Was that how Roger slid off that girl’s skirt, how he unclasped her bra and threw it down onto his floor?
It didn’t bear thinking about. Of course Roger would never do that. Even if he had grown tired of their relationship, he wasn’t the sort of person to cheat. Brian was ashamed for even thinking about it. Of course Roger hadn’t done anything, Brian scolded himself. It was utterly disgusting to even have thought that for one minute. But those clothes weren’t Brian’s, were they?
John cleared his throat and Brian jolted, lifted his head and looking back to his friend. He was still standing in the doorway to the lounge with women’s clothing hanging from his arms and an uncomfortable expression on his face. It almost looked like he was going to cry and that really was the last thing that Brian needed.
“I think you need to talk to Roger.”
Brian nodded, throat tight and stomach decidedly queasy. “Yes. Yeah, I will. I just – fuck, Deacy. I don’t know what I’d do if he told me…”
“I know.” John took a step forward and opened his mouth as if to say something else when the front door opened.
Brian watched almost in slow motion as Freddie and Roger fell through the door in stitches, laughing at some hilarious joke that John and Brian clearly weren’t in on. When Roger saw Brian, his smile turned softer but by no means dimmer.
“Hey, baby,” he said, fighting with his coat as Freddie fell into him again, whispering something that made them burst into fresh peals of laughter.
“Are you okay?” Roger asked when his laughter had died off again, brow furrowing in concern. “You look like you’ve just watched your dog die.”
Brian couldn’t say anything, but it didn’t matter because Roger entered the living room with his next step and his gaze fell on John.
They watched as Roger’s entire face fell even further, expression moulding into something akin to horror as he took in the items John held in his hands. Freddie quickly followed, head poking around Roger to see why it had suddenly all gone quiet.
“What’s the matter, darlings? You’re all terribly quiet.”
When he was met with even more silence, Freddie glanced between them all. It was almost comedic how his eyes automatically fell to John's arms and then flickered between the items there and Roger’s mortified eyes and back again. Back and forth, again and again.
Just as Brian thought he might be sick when faced with his boyfriend’s clear guilt, Freddie stepped around Roger and cleared his throat.
“Oh,” he said, voice as confident as it ever was and almost too loud for the awkward atmosphere. “You’ve found them. Good.”
“Good?” Brian let out a noise that was closer to a strangled cat’s howl than it was a word, watching as Roger winced violently.
“Yes,” Fred said determinedly, stepping subtly ever so slightly in front of Roger. “Rog and I were talking about new things for the band’s music videos. We thought that, well, women seem to sell, right?”
John squinted, not seeming to understand what Freddie was on about and Brian seconded that undoubtedly.
“But something even more fun,” Freddie continued, “would be for us to dress up as women. Can you imagine it?”
Silence. There was a long pause as no one said anything. John was clearly confused, Freddie hesitantly excited, Brian didn’t know what the hell he felt anymore, and Roger… well. Roger looked as though he was less than a minute away from crying.
“It’s Queen, darling,” Freddie interrupted John, something not clearly distinguishable flashing in his eyes. “It’s what we do.”
“Dress up as women?”
“Push boundaries,” Freddie replied immediately. Brian let the conversation between their singer and bassist wash over him; he really wasn’t up to thinking about much at the moment. “Reach out to the fringes of society. Have fun, live life in new ways.”
“And these?” Walking further into the room, John lifted his arms. It would have been impossible for even a blind man to miss the way that Roger shivered and seemed to gag on nothing with the movement.
“For the video,” Freddie said breezily, far too overly-casual as he moved even closer to Roger, nearly blocking him from Brian's sight completely. “We started discussing it forever ago now and Roger just kept the clothes. We meant to tell you, of course, but we've been so busy.”
“Right.” Roger’s voice sounded far away, broken in a way it never was. There was something unreadable in his eyes and his hands were white-knuckled by his sides. “The video. What Fred said.”
Freddie smiled, though it was incredibly fake. Something was wrong with both men and Brian hated the way that his stomach was clenching and bile was rising in his throat. Freddie was his best friend, had been for years; there was no way he’d cover for the man breaking Brian’s heart.
“Well. We only came to say hi, actually. Got more work to do – you know how it is, darlings. We’ll see you later, okay?”
Freddie wrapped his arm around the now-ashen Roger and started pushing him out of the room and back towards the front door. Brian let them go, heart beating so fast that he almost couldn’t breathe. He could feel John’s eyes on the back of his neck, but he couldn’t turn around. He might never move again, watching as Roger stared at him even as Freddie pulled him away.
Regret, Brian realised with a pang. That look in Roger’s eyes? It was regret.